Just for a change I don’t have an interesting “where I was in life” story to tell about May 2002. I was living in a shared house in Tottenham, going to work in my media/IT crossover job Monday to Friday and then contemplating my ever diminishing bank balance during the course of each weekend. Seriously, I think summer 2002 was the only time in my life when I’ve bounced a rent check that was due just a week after I got paid. Thank goodness for a temporarily overseas landlady who didn’t spot the anomaly until a year later when I was about to move out.
My exposure to most new music at this time seemed to be via the TV screens at the gym as well, although this does mean some of them prompt a subconscious link and give me flashbacks. Most men break out in a sweat when they see Shakira videos, I just do it for honourable reasons.
Chart time. Press play….
Another novelty track, this time the immortalisation of Sacha Baron Cohen’s first famous creation on record. Me Julie was recorded especially for the soundtrack of the film ‘Ali G Indahouse’ but had little or no connection to the plot of the movie, the track simply an excuse for Ali G to exercise his full pretensions as a dancehall star whilst the ever game for a laugh Shaggy gamely attempted to hold things together around him. The danger with comedy records is that they can get old very quickly and lose their impact as the humour dates. Me Julie just about straddles the line between fun pop record and joke, meaning that even with only a limited knowledge of the character and just why his deluded posturing is so funny it is possible to appreciate the record for what it is eight years down the line.
Honourable mention has to be made of Ali G’s own rap break towards the back end of the track, the first stanza of which is reproduced here for your entertainment:
You is better than J-Lo, next to you she is just a minger
Better than Destiny’s Child, well, apart from the lead singer
You is fitter than the Spice Girls including the Ginger
Give it a shave, ‘cos me wanna be in yer.
Incidentally the “clean radio edit” played on the Top 40 show provides some unintentional comedy as well, censoring the word “shave” in the above rap and thus making the line sound far ruder than it actually is.
Speaking of “minger” J-Lo, here she is herself with a track that is one of my all-time favourite headscratchers. For this is a record which stretches the definition of the word “remix” to its very limits.
The original Ain’t It Funny appeared on her 2001 album J.Lo and was released as a single in the summer of 2001. A fun, Latin-flavoured track it ranks as one of her best pop records ever and is forever in my head associated with wandering around the West End of London on a steamy summer Saturday, surrounded by lots of drunk happy people and with the track blasting out of the PA system of just about every bar you walked past.
Nine months later came this identically-titled track, hailed to the world as a “remixed version” of her earlier hit. Except it was nothing of the sort. The 2002 Ain’t It Funny was actually a totally different track, with different lyrics and a different melody. The only thing remotely “remixed” about the record was its use of the same title and an expanded set of collaborators, rapper Ja Rule joined by Cadillac Tah to drag Jennifer Lopez into the world of hip-hop for the very first time, one which arguably opened up whole new doors to her and gave her career a lease of life far beyond the Latin-flavoured pop records with which she had started it.
So tell me blog readers, I’m not wrong am I? Ain’t It Funny (2002) is in no sense of the word a remix of Ain’t It Funny (2001) vintage. Despite writer Cory Rooney being credited on both, the two are entirely different songs written in different styles and on completely different subject matters. Was the word “remix” really added to the title just to cover up the fact that Lopez was promoting two different singles with the same name just a few months apart from each other?
28: Lost Witness – Did I Dream (Song To The Siren)
A new entry here on this chart, this was the fourth and final Top 40 entry for Messrs Paul and Kemper who traded at the start of the decade as trance act Lost Witness. Arriving two years after their previous hit 7 Colours, this single was either a moment of inspired genius or the ultimate offensive sacrilege depending on your point of view. As the title suggests, the track is a blissed-up cover of the famous Tim Buckley track Song To The Siren, focusing in particular on the “did I dream, you dreamed about me” hook. Hardcore dance fans will note that this was not a totally new idea, the “did I dream” line having featured prominently almost a decade earlier thanks to rave classic Temple Of Dreams by Messiah – itself sampling the equally classic This Mortal Coil cover version which had been a hit in 1983.
You had to feel for Moby slightly. After a decade of slogging away as a producer and writer of ambient electronic dance records, he was launched to superstardom thanks to 1999 album Play which after a distressingly slow start suddenly exploded into a phenomenon early the following year. The catalyst was the enthusiastic marketing by his label which led to the album not only spawning eight hit singles but which also saw every one of its 18 tracks licensed for commercial use somewhere in the world. Follow-up album 18 was never going to come close to topping that and so was released in May 2002 to rather lukewarm reviews. Its one and only Top 20 hit single in this country was the lead track We Are All Made Of Stars which unusually featured the man himself on lead vocals and which made a comfortable Number 11 a few weeks ahead of the album release. Not a bad Moby record by any means (and he has made a few over the years), its only misfortune being the track that had to follow everything that had come before it.
There was received wisdom back in 2002 that this was one of Britney Spears’ strongest singles for some time. Originally recorded for the soundtrack of her semi-successful movie debut Crossroads, the track instead wound up on her album Britney and was released as its third single. Its songwriting pedigree was mouthwatering, I’m Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman written not only by the hit factory pairing of Max Martin and Rami but with additional contributions from no less a figure than Dido. Released in April 2002, the single appeared to justify the hype by shooting straight to Number 2, her biggest hit single since Oops I Did It Again had topped the charts two years earlier.
Here is the issue though. The single is utter garbage. The record is an anodyne, under-melodied pop ballad that is sung with all the emotional gravity of a rag doll. Britney’s musical reputation at the time was quite rightly based on the towering genius of pop records such as Oops.. and Baby One More Time but to give her a free pass for this turgid waste of plastic was more than I could stomach either back then or even now. Britney Spears would later make a career of having big hits with incredibly bad records (step forward Gimmie More) for example, but this single was possibly the first time I can remember sitting down to and wondering just what everyone else was hearing that I wasn’t.
Funny you know, once upon a time when people wanted to chart with a football record they sat down and made their own rather than reactivating tired old hits from decades earlier. The Best Day Of Our Lives arrived on the chart as a kind of warm-up to the World Cup fever which (just like now) was set to descend on the country. A tribute to the Celtic side of 1967 who famously battled their way to the European Cup Final and became the first British side ever to lift the famous trophy, the track began life as a short jingle on a website dedicated to the Lisbon Lions (as the side were forever dubbed). Expanded by its composers to a full song, it was released as a charity single to mark the apparently random 35th anniversary of that famous victory. Those nervously studying the performing credits can be reassured that then manager Martin O’Neill’s contribution to the track was limited to a monologue reminiscing about the day Celtic won the European cup. The “Lisbon Lions” on the track were however a rather more star-studded bunch, celebrity football fans such as Noel Gallagher, Billy Connolly, Rod Stewart, Ian McCulloch, Shane McGowan and even good old Huey from the Fun Lovin' Criminals all pitching up (so to speak) in the studio to add their vocals.
In an ironic twist, the single (a swiftly in and out Number 17 hit) kind of hit the charts a year too early as in 2003 Celtic battled their way to an eventual defeat to a Jose Mourinho-led Porto in the UEFA Cup Final, a game which once more prompted fond memories of the Lisbon Lions and that famous 1967 final.
Few and far between are the bands who have summed up their own sound and approach to music in one single eloquent quote. So it is that The Hives are indeed “like a velvet glove with brass knuckles, both brutal and sophisticated at the same time”. The back to basics Swedish rock band might have languished in European obscurity but for a trip to Germany by Alan McGee who made them one of the first signings to his brand new Poptones record label. Hate To Say I Told You So became their first Top 30 hit in early 2002 and this single was the follow-up, perhaps immortalised forever as the music to which Kylie rode a bucking bronco in her infamous lingerie commercial. Really the song deserves more than to be the soundtrack to a wank fantasy about a flat-chested Australian, Main Offender is two and a half minutes of raw blues-rock perfection, a sparkling antithesis to every over-polished pop record that it nestled up against. I’d hate for all music to sound this way, but it represents part of the balance of the universe that at least some small part of it does.
I remember one day in the office in the week that The Hindu Times was released, Hilary one of our entertainment reporters approached me with a strange request:
“Can you come into the car park and sing the new Oasis single for me?”
Lacking anything else to say about it, the newsroom were out to prove that the single could indeed be performed by anyone with even half a musical ear. I’d barely paid the song any attention before that point, but armed with just a quick listen on a walkman and a sheet of lyrics, I was indeed able to perform the song almost note for note. The point (I think) was that this was possibly the laziest record that Oasis ever released, a track that might as well have been presented by a bunch of music students as the most typical Oasis track they could generate in half an hour. The first single released from their fifth album Heathen Chemistry it was possibly the best indication so far that musically Oasis’ glory days of the 90s were well behind them and they were by and large starting to run on fumes creatively.
For all that the single was at the very least a Number One record. The first brand new Oasis material it could hardly not be, but its swift debut at the top of the charts and its equally rapid dislodging and subsequent plummet demonstrated that the track was a hit more or less by default. In no sense is The Hindu Times a bad record, far from it, but it is most certainly a long way from being the best thing they ever recorded. Was this the moment the most famous British group of their era began to play to the gallery?
The second hit single for the six-piece alternative rock band from Berkshire whose three-album career spawned some eminently listenable music, even if none of their singles ever quite made it to full mainstream attention. Who Needs Enemies was their third chart record and second to make the Top 40, entering and peaking here as the follow-up to Top 20 hit Film Maker/Been Training Dogs which had been released three months earlier. The chart show noted that the band had just been guests on the Jo Whiley show during the previous week, their role being to officially launch the “1Music” website which gave guidance to young people on how to break into the music business. As a test, I typed in the url given in the show to see it if still worked, and curiously it does, redirecting automatically to the BBC Introducing website devoted to the discovery of unsigned bands. Same concept, different approach I guess.
The halfway point is reached with something of a throwaway, the one and only Top 20 single for 4Strings, a production alias of Dutchman Carlo Resoort. It is four minutes of disposable trance nonsense, that is all you really need to know about this one.